The Curious Garden
One of my favorite public parks is located in New York City. Nestled among the city’s skyscrapers and concrete is the High Line. It’s a mile-and-a-half-long elevated park, running through the West Side neighborhoods of the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea and Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen. The High Line was originally built in the 1930s as a 13-mile long elevated railway track, which was used to move freight trains across the city. (The last train traveling across the High Line carried three carloads of frozen turkeys.) Over the years the rusted and decayed tracks gave way to wildflowers, plants and trees, and a lush garden was born, high above the streets and weaving between buildings. In 2009, with the help of the community, this abandoned and forgotten railway was transformed into a public park. To read more about this extraordinary transformation or to join Friends of the High Line, please visit their website at www.thehighline.org Keep reading…
Inspired by nature’s ability to thrive in forgotten places like the High Line, Peter Brown wrote and illustrated The Curious Garden. “While out exploring one day, a little boy named Liam discovers a struggling garden and decides to take care of it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world.”
The narrative is straightforward, with a dry sense of humor. Liam and the garden are the only two characters in the story, and together they bring life back to a city and its people. The book starts off grey and dreary in a city built of brick, concrete and steel. Slowly colour is introduced until the pages are overgrown with lush greens, and speckled with oranges, pinks, purples, reds and yellows. I love the vibrant blue sky and grass that looks like a thick carpet you could sink your toes into.
The Curious Garden, a children’s book review by Thao Lam
Author and Illustrator Peter Brown
Peter Brown has been busy, not surprisingly considering how super talented he is (he writes and he draws!). I have a growing collection of his books including Chowder, which was previously profiled on B is for Books. I just picked up his new book, Children Make Terrible Pets, which I hope to showcase soon.
I am always tickled pink when an author or an illustrator, takes time out of their busy schedule to reply to a fan mail.
“When I first discovered the High Line in Manhattan, it was not the beautiful park it is today. It was a forgotten elevated train track, which had become overgrown with trees and wildflowers and grasses. It was a little bit of wilderness sprouting up in the middle of an industrial part of New York City. It immediately captured my imagination, and I began dreaming up a story of a boy discovering a place similar to the High Line all by himself, the efforts he takes to care for the plants, and the effect it has on the world around him. And soon I could think of nothing else.
The Curious Garden was a true pleasure to make. I loved juxtaposing lush greenery with dilapidated industry, and showing what might be possible when an entire community joins together. The book is filled with scenes familiar to people all over the world, not just New Yorkers, which is why I made this story about an unnamed, fictitious place. My hope is that kids in Detroit or London or Shanghai would identify with it every bit as much as kids in New York.”
– Peter Brown –
To see what Peter Brown has been up to, visit his website at www.peterbrownstudio.com
Publisher Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 1, 2009)